It may not be the first thing that comes into your head when being asked about the latest in battery technology, but a recent article by Neil Savage on superconductor website IEEE Spectrum details in full research that suggests mushrooms are being used as an alternative to graphite in the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries (http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/semiconductors/materials/running-on-shrooms).
Li-ion batteries are the cornerstone of the industry, providing the energy in almost all hand-held electronic devices, and are looked to as the obvious choice in powering electric vehicles - but these larger applications require some advances to the technology, of which finding a suitable alternative to graphite for the electrodes is one of the most prominent.
At the moment, mushroom-driven electrodes are not quite as efficient as the more-standard graphite, but as development continues there is every chance that they will overtake the industry default in the near future. One of the more interesting features described in the article details how the mushroom-anodes improve in performance the more charging cycles the battery has undertaken, meaning the batteries get better the longer they are used. If the researchers of this new technology manage to acquire a deal with a major manufacturer, we may be buying toadstool cells from the supermarket shelves within a decade.
Using resources that can be easily grown to replace more traditional components has many advantages, not the least of which is sustainability. Mushrooms in particular are very easy to grow and harvest, making them far cheaper than graphite and ecologically-friendly too - both factors that the 21st century world considers of high importance.
Developments like this in the energy industry show just how important batteries are to the modern world; more than ever before, we rely on rechargeable cells to maintain our lifestyle. As researchers look further and further out of the box for improvements to the technology, we could be seeing things far stranger than mushrooms being used to power our devices. Maybe powering cars with Doc Brown's Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future is closer than we ever believed.